Kilimanjaro National Park
The Shira Plateau is one of the most fascinating and scenic areas on Kilimanjaro. It is well worth a visit just to explore the ridges and moorland. However, the road to Shira is only accessible by 4-wheel-drive vehicles and can become impassable during wet periods. Because you can drive to a relatively high altitude, you must be careful to acclimatize here, especially if planning to climb higher. Two nights at least are recommended.
The drive to and from Shira offers magnificent views of the Great Rift Valley, studded with mountains. Among them Mt. Meru and Longido are especially prominent. The Shira zone of parasitic cones extends along to the north of the road, from plain to plateau. The vegetation changes along the track are striking. The plateau is grassland, heath and moor, with especially large senecios (up to 10 meters high) in valleys near the Cone. Elands can often be seen on the plateau, and you may see signs of buffaloes, leopards and other animals.
The Shira Cone rises about 200 meters above the plateau. Beyond it, to the west, is the Shira Ridge, a steep rise reaching almost 400 meters above plateau level at its trig point. The southern ridge of the Shira Plateau has two dramatic peaks called Cathedral and the Needle.
For a dramatic personal account of climbing Kilimanjaro via the Shira Plateau route, see "The Roof of Africa."
From the main Moshi-Arusha road, turn north at Boma la Ng'ombe (Hai) to West Kilimanjaro. After about 23 kms the tarmac road becomes a dirt road and continues another 20 kms. across a deep stream valley to a fork where a forestry road leads uphill to the right. Ascend 13 kms to the Park gate at Londorossi Glades. Continue on through about 3 kms of forest plantation, then natural forest, heath and moor. About 19 kms from the gate is a good campsite with a rock shelter by a stream. The track continues another 3 kms across the saddle between Shira Dome and Kibo's western slope at 3740 m. From the end of the track, it is about a 1/2 hour walk to Shira Hut, following a marked trail. From Shira Hut, one trail leads directly up the ridge to the Lava Tower Hut. About 1 hour along this trail, a side path leads north (left) to the Northern Circuit, reaching Moir Hut after another hour. The trail to the Southern Circuit currently branches south from the Shira to Lava Tower Hut trail, about 20 minutes below Lava Tower. Another trail goes southeast from Shira Hut to join the Machame Route.
End of road to Shira Hut 1/2 hr
Shira Hut to Lava Tower Hut 4 hrs
Shira Hut to junction with North Circuit 1 hr
Shira Hut to Moir Hut: 2 hrs
Shira Hut to junction with South Circuit 3 1/2 hrs
Shira Hut to Machame Huts: 3 hrs
Shira Hut - 3800 m. This is an unfurnished uniport which sleeps 8. Water is in streambed approximately 50 m north of the hut. There are no toilets.
Special Thanks to Thomson Safaris and Tanzania National Parks for contributing Tanzanian information.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication